Northerners have expressed their outrage over the hysteria around ‘golden child’ London being put under tier three rules, saying it shows how deep-rooted regional divides have become.
The capital and a number of other areas in southern England were today put under the harshest coronavirus measures following an ‘exponential’ rise in cases.
People from Manchester, Leicester, and Lancashire told Metro.co.uk that when cases were rising in the north they were branded ‘rule-breakers’ and ‘too simple’ to understand measures, while the latest surge in southern cases has been put down to a new strain of Covid-19.
Disillusioned northerners, who have spent the vast majority of the year under harsher lockdown rules, said they have been treated unfairly despite infection rates dropping while London has ‘got away with murder’.
An Instagram post shared by Justine Up North, including the graphic ‘we’re northern but not stupid’, has captured the mood of many and has been liked and shared thousands of times.
Justine, who is running a northern businesses relief fund, wrote: ‘The government and media in this country treat the North as if it’s a grey, distant land of simpletons and quite frankly, I’m f***king bored of it.’
Ella Makinson, 25, from Clitheroe in Lancashire, echoed her thoughts and said the pandemic has highlighted the notion of the north-south divide.
She told Metro.co.uk: ‘Even in the media, the language you see – when it was the north, we were rule-breaking and we didn’t understand. But now for southerners there is a new strain and the rules are too complex. It’s ridiculous.
‘It comes back to the north-south divide – there is this ingrained idea that the north is a grim place that’s full of council estates. I feel like a lot of southern people that I’ve met think it’s all factories and mines.’
A Leicester-based NHS physiotherapist, who has been working on coronavirus wards and in A&E during the pandemic, said northerners are being ‘unfairly maligned for not being in the London bubble’.
He commented that Leicester, which was the first city to go under a regional lockdown in June, has been in a ‘near-constant state of lockdown’ for most of the year.
The NHS worker said: ‘People think it’s very convenient that of course London would stay in tier two [after lockdown], they wouldn’t want to put anyone at a disadvantage down there. It’s one rule for them and another up here.
‘It’s just frustrating. All of the restrictions seem plucked out of nowhere it’s hard to see where the evidence is that they’re leading on. There is no clarity.’
Ellie Marsh, also from Leicester, said London has been treated as ‘the favourite child’ and is concerned areas, like hers, with large ethnic minority communities have been unfairly targeted.
The 25-year-old, who works for Leicester City County Council, said: ‘With Leicester you get a lot of discrimination, as it is majority Asian and ethnic minority communities. It is known many ethnic communities live in large households in Leicester – and elsewhere – and that is really being put to blame.’
A social worker from Greater Manchester raised concerns that while the majority of the north has remained in tier three despite cases dropping, London has been ‘free to roam and continue as close to normal as possible’.
‘However, when London required tightening up, the country ended up in a national lockdown,’ the 28-year-old added. ‘It’s as though the Government feel if London has to be restricted then everyone else must.
‘They are like petulant children who spit their dummy out when London has to tighten up.’
In the week ending December 2, Greater Manchester had a lower infection rate than London – yet the capital was put into tier two and the northern region was plunged under tier three.
On the day the national lockdown was lifted, there were 164.65 cases per 100,000 people in Greater Manchester, while London had 169.32.
And hospitality business owners in the north have been particularly hard-hit by restrictions, with many struggling to make ends meet for months with only takeaway services permitted.
Greg John, founder of not-for-profit Manchester Hospitality Network, said some restaurants are being charged more than 40% commission for delivery services, on top of rent which can cost thousands a week.
He said: ‘I’ve been speaking to people in my local community and they’ve actually moved out of their houses and into their business to keep it afloat. They’ve made rooms above their establishment – it’s really heart-breaking.’
Manchester-based Mr John, who has been campaigning throughout the pandemic for more support for the sector, said he felt sorry for London hospitality workers – but there is a silver lining.
‘Because London is the golden child and has been put into tier three, hospitality support packages will now be looked at,’ he said. ‘That’s kind of a bonus but it’s quite sad.’
For Mancunians, the lockdown funding showdown between Mayor of Manchester Andy Burnham and Downing Street in late October remains firmly at the forefront of their minds.
Ciara Tully, from Chorlton, Greater Manchester, said the Government appears to have handled coronavirus politically ‘without the care and diligence it really needed.’
The 27-year-old, who works in HR, said: ‘Up north there is a real sense of injustice with how the Government has handled the situation.
‘It’s not been done fairly. It became very political when Andy Burnham tried to ensure Manchester had enough funding to support tough tier three lockdown.
‘Since then, it feels as though the Government hasn’t appropriately responded to Manchester and the decline in cases. And the fact that London’s has shot up when a new variant of coronavirus has come about seems very convenient – we need transparency.’
Salford-based account manager, Richard Gilbert, echoed her thoughts, adding: ‘It feels to me as though London is the golden child that gets away with murder because it’s the one that brings in the money and supports the family.’
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